Potent Theatrical Nostalgia Sets Off Dilemmas of Contemporary Life


In The Happy Dance (or what started out ok), Monica Bill Barnes constructs an Edwardian vaudeville of enormous charm: Three generations of performers decked out in spangles, tulle, and tuxes parade through the space at intervals. A trio of raunchy showgirls strut their stuff, while a matched pair of early-adolescent angels swing from wires in a toy theater, blessing the sweet, pathetic bravado of the proceedings. This old-time enchantment, however, merely provides a background for an extended duet by Barnes and Tami Stronach in which they let us know that postmodern woes can stifle performance—onstage and in life—reducing it to stuttering, then paralysis. At each of their recurrent impasses, unable to establish a mode of togetherness that will last, yet determined not to part, they face each other as if to ask, “Where do we go from here?” Their duet goes on too long on too little material, but the setting is sheer heaven.